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Atari ST/TT/Falcon Computers


Atari's final phase of computing includes the 16-bit 520ST, 1040ST, STacy Laptop, the 32-bit TT and Falcon, and the miniscule Portfolio palmtop.

The ST line of computers featured a custom version of Digital Research's GEM for it's graphical environment. DRI would forever be known as the company who "missed the boat" in 1981 when IBM came knocking for an OS for their new PC computer. That contract would go to Microsoft which catapulted them into riches and DRI into obscurity.

The actual operating system however would be a derivative of DRI's CP/M operating system modified by Atari and called "TOS." Some claim that TOS stands for "Tramiel Operating System" while others insist it means "The Operating System." Both monikers are still debated today and no one knows for sure what TOS stands for.

The Atari ST's main competition would come from it's 8-bit rival Commodore, in the form of the Amiga computers. (Incidentally, the Amiga was designed by former Atari engineers.) Atari beat Commodore to the market with it's 16-bit computers and I remember a quote from Jack Tramiel when asked about them. (Paraphrasing) "I saw nothing new from Commodore at the show."

The Atari ST is often berated for it's lack of graphics and sound capabilities, even though it was once the pinnacle of music development due to it's built-in MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports. Graphics for the ST were limited to 16 onscreen colors of a palette of 512 (later 4,096) and there was no built-in sprite hardware making game coding more difficult.

Notable games for the ST include Dungeon Master, Starglider, Gods, Wings of Death, No Second Prize, Stunt Car Racer, Time Bandit, Ishar series, Cannon Fodder, Bard's Tale, Captive, Battle Command, Elite & Elite 2: Frontier, Populous, Sensible Soccer, Epic, Llamatron and hundreds more!

Towards the end of the ST's life-cycle, the makers of the popular game Civilization were not going to release an ST version. This caused an uproar in the ST community such that the game makers decided to release an ST version after all. This reminded me of the letter-writing campaign that convinced NBC to keep Star Trek on the air for another year. Power of the people!

Here is your typical Atari ST desktop. This is from TOS 1.62. Later versions for the Mega STe, TT, and Falcon added many more features. And NeoDesk from Gribnif software made the ST even more useful and flexible.

The Atari 1040 STe

Atari ST Specs:
(Note: Each systems specs are slightly different. The Falcon and TT are exceptionally different!)

Processor: 68000 (16-bit @ 8 MHz)
3 channel
320x200 (16 colors), 640x200 (4 colors), 640 x 400 (2 colors)
512 colors with 16 onscreen
1 megabyte, expandable to 4 meg
Printer, serial, RF for television, RGB for monitor, ASCI highspeed data, mouse, joystick, MIDI, cartridge
Floppy Drive:

Original 1986 price for the Atari ST: Under $1,000

Extra Features of the STe: 4,096 color palette, BLiTTER chip, hardware scrolling, SIMM memory modules, analog joystick ports (compatible with Jaguar pads), IBM compatible floppy drive, L/R audio ports.

Extra Features of the TT: 68030 processor @ 32 Mhz, 256 colors @ 320x480, 48 or 80 meg hard drive, detached keyboard.

Extra Features of the Falcon: 68030 processor @ 16 Mhz, 65,000 colors @ 640x480, 1.44 meg floppy drive, 4 meg RAM (expandable to 14), internal 65 meg hard drive, DSP processor, SCSI-2 port, Price: $1,299.

More info about the Atari line here

Atari-ST Reviews

Atari-ST Features

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Atari-ST Guides

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